Former Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan's 'Azadi March' towards the capital Islamabad began on Wednesday, 25 May, despite repeated warnings by the Shehbaz Sharif-led government that they would not allow the march to take place.
The Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) chief had urged his supporters to march on the capital to oppose the ruling establishment.
"I will lead the Azadi March caravan from there and God willing we will head to Islamabad from there. I want each and everyone to leave because this is a defining moment," Khan said.
As the march began, tensions soared across the country. In the Punjab province, police resorted to the use of tear gas and arrested several members of the opposition PTI as they attempted to remove obstacles, such as shipping containers, installed to halt their steps, Dawn reported.
'Defining Moment': Khan on Azadi March
Khan in an address to his supporters on Wednesday also exhorted them to overcome any obstacles that may be placed before them.
The PTI leader also asked his supporters to carry flags of Pakistan while marching towards Islamabad, and called it a "defining moment" for the country.
Meanwhile, law enforcement officials were put on high alert, with the government ordering them to take "all possible measures" to stop the PTI's march towards the capital.
On Wednesday evening, a convoy led by Khan was able to enter Punjab from the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province after removing barricades installed by the government to stop the march in its tracks. Meanwhile, internet disruptions were reported across the country amid the chaos.
The march comes after talks between the government and Khan's PTI reached a stalemate, with both sides refusing to strike an agreement on vital issues.
Khan also slammed reports of a deal as being nothing more than "rumours and deliberate disinformation."
Khan Slams Govt as 'Group of Thieves'
While addressing his supporters amid the march, Khan had called the government a "group of thieves" and said that there was nobody more corrupt than them.
He also alleged that PTI members were being detained and harassed amid the march, claiming that when his government was in power, he did not prevent anybody from staging protests.
"We will cross all obstacles and reach D-Chowk. Our protest will be peaceful as it has always been," Khan said amid rousing applause from his supporters.
He also said that the country did not accept an "imported" government, and urged his supporters to wage a "jihad" for "true freedom", as per Dawn.
"All Pakistanis, women, children, families, youth, lawyers, retired army officers, everyone has to come out for real independence," the PTI chief said.
Chaos Unfolds Across Pakistan
Meanwhile, scenes of chaos unfolded across Pakistan amid the march on Wednesday.
In the Hazro town of Punjab's Attock district, the police fired tear gas shells at protesters, who had reportedly brought a crane to remove obstacles blocking their path.
"We are peaceful and were trying to remove the hurdles when Punjab police resorted to tear gas shelling," a PTI worker said.
This comes even as Section 144 – used to prevent large gatherings – was enforced in Islamabad, Punjab, and Sindh.
A scuffle also took place between the police and PTI supporters in Lahore's Bati Chowk. Ten people were taken into custody amid the clashes.
The PTI also took to Twitter to say that protesters had been stopped in Lahore's Shahdara. Later, however, Khan's supporters were seen breaking the barricades used to stop them from going forward.
Similar instances also took place at Lahore's Niazi Chowk and Bati Chowk.
A PTI leader named Hammad Azhar also took to Twitter to say that he had been shot with a shell, and claimed that the police, on the orders of the government, was aiming at people's faces while firing.
Allegedly, the police also rained down blows on the car of 80-year-old PTI leader Yasmin Rashid at Bati Chowk.
Rashid said her car's windshield had been broken by the police, adding that she was now on the way to Islamabad despite facing difficulties en route.
"This government has lost its senses. I am an 80-year-old woman. Why are they threatened by me? How is stopping a peaceful protest democratic?" Rashid said in a statement.
Later, the PTI also put out visuals of Rashid's tattered car on Twitter.
Meanwhile, the Lahore High Court ordered the release of all the protesters who had been detained, subject to their assurance that they would not indulge in illegal activities or breach the law.
As per GeoNews, 212 PTI members had been arrested so far in Lahore.
Former Pak Cricketer Says no Petrol or Cash in ATMs Available
Meanwhile, former Pakistani cricketer Mohammad Hafeez on Wednesday highlighted the ongoing economic crisis in the country, saying that there was no petrol available at pumps or cash at ATMs.
"No Petrol available in any petrol station in Lahore? No cash available in ATM machines? Why a common man have to suffer from political decisions," Hafeez said on Twitter.
He also tagged PM Sharif, PTI chief Khan, former PM Nawaz Sharif's daughter Maryam Nawaz, and the country's foreign minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari.
(With inputs from Dawn and GeoNews.)
(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)